When A Child Has Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy eating and regular exercise can prevent or slow the onset of type 2 diabetes in children.

kid smiling at pile of donuts 

A child with diabetes has trouble regulating blood glucose, or blood sugar. There are two major kinds of the disease: type 1 and type 2.

If a child has type 2 diabetes (T2D), the body doesn’t produce enough insulin — the hormone that turns food into energy — or the cells ignore insulin altogether. With type 1 diabetes, or T1D, the pancreas simply stops producing insulin.

T2D is by far the most common form, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Of the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes, between 90 and 95 percent of them have T2D. And in that group, 215,000 of them have diabetes (type 1 or type 2) and are under the age of 20, says the American Diabetes Association. Between 2002 and 2005, 3,600 youth were diagnosed with T2D each year.

More than 90 percent of kids with T2D have a family history of the disease, says Parents advisor Lori Laffel, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Section at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “Previously this was a disease of adults in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Now we see kids getting type 2 diabetes at around the time of puberty,” says Dr. Laffel. This is in large part due to the rise in childhood obesity.

But there is good news. In many cases of pre-diabetes, which is when a child shows some but not all of its symptoms, you can delay reliance on injected insulin by making sure your child is active and has a healthy diet. And if it’s caught early enough, you can reverse the disease entirely.

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